Speaking the language of taste: Ukrainian Chef’s gastro-performance in Latvia reveals the truth about the horrors of war


Yurii Kovryzhenko, a WTA 2023 nominee in the Ambassador of the Year category, is a well-known Ukrainian chef, gastro-diplomat, TV presenter, whose crafty molecular borsch astounded the Michelin Guide. Yurii was educated in the best culinary schools in Europe – Ecole Ritz Escoffier, Ferrandi Paris, Basque Culinary Center, and others. Yurii Kovryzhenko’s name is strongly associated with Ukrainian cuisine, both in Ukraine and abroad. He is the Ambassador of Ukrainian cuisine worldwide, promoting national gastronomy at various official events.

On August 28-29. 2023, Yurii Kovryzhenko took part in The Price of Freedom gastronomic performance. This performance was part of the charity cultural project “Ukraine. Residence of Freedom” in Latvia, uniting Ukrainian and Latvian artists. “People cried, laughed, worried, watched and… ate. That was the idea of a gastronomic performance called The Price of Freedom, which we did in Riga in collaboration with the best chefs of Latvia. It was probably one of the most remarkable experiences I’ve ever gone through. I’m still trying to get back to my senses…” —  Yurii Kovryzhenko wrote on his Instagram page. 

The chef said that he had been nurturing the idea of a gastro-performance for quite a long time, so when he received an offer to join the “Ukraine. Residence of Freedom” project with a performance of his dream, he immediately agreed. Yurii really loved the concept of the project, but at the beginning he did not quite realize what a large-scale story was planned. The organizers and ideologists of the project gathered a wonderful team of curators, directors and artists who managed to tell about the pain and horrors of the war in Ukraine by the language of taste. 

“The Price of Freedom”, the performance in which Yurii and his Latvian colleagues were engaged, was held in the session hall of the Parliament in Riga. The guests were seated at the deputies’ seats. A suitcase containing various delicacies was carried in front of them, but the guests could not take anything from it. Instead, they were offered some simple, basic food that Ukrainians could only have, hiding from the war in a shelter or fleeing from it on the road — a plain sandwich or a baked potato.

Another episode told the story of the number of lives lost due to the war by means of grains of wheat and corn. A bitter herbal drink made of wheat and corn, typical Ukrainian grains, was offered to guests so that they could taste the bitterness of loss and pain. This part of the performance was followed by a presentation in the form of a tree with a bud of a flower, symbolizing a new life that breaks through death and devastation. Every part of the performance was accompanied by choreography, animation, painting, music, and words. The emotional component of this performance ensured the maximum immersion of the audience by means of images and tastes. 

“I am speechless… I have never seen such a reaction from people, and I have never received such feedback. The guests were writing the organizers the next day, telling them that they couldn’t stop thinking about what they’d seen the night before. It was more than just a dinner or a meal. These emotions go deep and last for a long time. You keep coming back to them in your thoughts. That’s how I felt, too,” said Yurii, reflecting about the performance.

The WTA team would like to thank the talented Ukrainian chef, the award nominee, for his contribution in promoting the Ukrainian idea and telling the truth about the war in Ukraine, using the language of taste. We wish Yurii success in his mission, and promise we will keep spreading the word!